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San Francisco Gets Ambient Awareness of How It Parks

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 9 2011

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The New York Times' Matt Richtel profiles San Francisco's new SFPark app, a mobile tool for helping drivers find parking spots in the city by the bay.

Finding elusive open parking spots in a city like San Francisco is, of course, a sexy application of urban data. (Well, sexy as these things go.) But there's more to the SFPark project than just that. maintains a nicely done "How It Works" on the project, which is powered by sensors installed in parking spots and municipal parking garages that wirelessly transmit out data. There's a potentially powerful feedback loop at work. For drivers, zeroing in on a spot is nice, but all that data being scooped by by the city also allows it to calibrate parking rates in near real-time, tweaking numbers monthly within a band of fifty cents to ultimately "reduce double parking and circling."

Another detail worth noting is that SFPark is less 'government as a platform' than government deciding to innovate on its own. The project is run by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, funded in part by a $20 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.